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‘Fearless and Relentless Baserunning: Stuck on Green’

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Baseball Head Coach Matt Riser recently gave his presentation “Fearless and Relentless Baserunning: Stuck on Green” at the American Baseball Coaches Association convention. Riser enjoys building personal relationships with players on the team as he observes their personal and professional growth. File Photo/The Lion's Roar 

During baseball Head Coach Matt Riser’s past four seasons at the university, some of his many accomplishments include leading the program to its first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2016, first preseason national ranking in 2017, along with earning 157 wins. The team’s famous base running skillset has earned them the fifth national ranking for earning 118 stolen bases. The Picayune, Mississippi native played for Pearl River Community College and Tulane University. He began his coaching career at Tulane after graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering at the university in 2007. At Southeastern, Riser’s duties included serving as the primary hitting coach and third-base coach during games under former coach Jay Artigues. Riser recently attended the American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Indianapolis, Indiana on Jan. 4-7 of this year. His presentation “Fearless and Relentless Baserunning: Stuck on Green,” focused on the team’s unique assets and celebrated Riser’s passion for the green and gold nation. As Riser enters his fifth season at the university, he reflects on the lessons that he has learned from his coaches and mentors in order to influence generations of well rounded athletes. 

The Lion’s Roar: How did you determine the name for the presentation?

Matt Riser: We really think baserunning is a style of play that’s not done by most in our league, in Division I, to be honest with you. I think it best describes our mindset and mentality. That’s the number one thing we got to do on our base running. Obviously, the green and gold was easy to approach from the school colors. It spoke of who we are and what we are with the same school spirit during the presentation for the hour. 

TLR: Have you been to this conference before?

M.R.: I have. The first time that I went was in 2009, and I try to go every year. It’s one time every year. It’s a great event to interact with other coaches. We have all assets from high school, to junior high, Division I to pro coaches, are all there. There are all different levels of play, so we try to attend every year. I have the fortune to attend every year with the staff. We had over 6,000 coaches this year. It was a pretty big event and  a neat event to be able to network and socialize. We get to discuss the different styles of play and hopefully bring something back for us to implement during the season. 

TLR: Describe your experience at the convention. 

M.R.: Once in a lifetime. You know, when I went to my first convention a few years ago in 2009, I absolutely loved it and dreamed to hopefully being able to do the same thing. To be able to present to so many coaches and spread that word. I remember being at that convention for the first time and wanting some more from the other coaches, wanting more information from them.  It’s a quick segment. You don’t realize how quickly 45 minutes goes by, but it goes by in a flash. I wanted to be able to get up there and talk about what our guys do. I love getting up there and bragging about our coaches, players and our programs. It’s a great experience to be able to feature what we do as a baseball team and as a university as well. 

TLR: Why is this convention important to baseball world?

MR: This is where we get everything passed. We talk about rules and regulations to propose to the NCAA. This is an opportunity to hear a coherent voice. This is what we want in the coaching world, or this is not what we want in the coaching world. Not all voices can be heard, so this is the one spot, outside of the other conventions, where everybody is there probably more than any other place in the country to try to get together and be able to discuss rules and regulations. We discuss where the future of the game is gonna go and influence that in the right direction. 

TLR: If you had to pinpoint six main points of your presentation what would they be?

M.R.: One would be mindset. We also talked about aggression and fear and how to turn that fear into the act of being fearless. Next, we talked about how to turn passiveness into aggression. We talked about instincts, how we are able to turn these guys into athletes. You have to trust your instinctive moves. I broke it down into what we do as an offense, from our straight steals to our special team plays. We try to give them a broad spectrum about drills to actual execution in the main part of it. That was the main six areas that I tried to touch base on. 

TLR: What is the most important lesson that you’ve learned at the convention?

M.R.: There’s some very intelligent older coaches that have seen a lot of things, and there’s some very intelligent younger coaches that are very studious of the game and this game is always evolving. I think the neatest part about this and this convention is that you learn a lot every year. When you are done learning, then it’s probably time to stop and get out, move on and do something else.

TLR: What sort of techniques did you use to develop a team that excels so heavily at baserunning? 

M.R.: It’s just been implemented over the years, and it’s part of what we recruit. It’s what we try to identify and bring in our program. We try to recruit the strength of the athlete and skill of the athlete as well. Who has baseball instincts? Who has the right mindsets? It’s a very particular player. It makes it hard to recruit because there’s not a ton of those guys out there. There’s big, strong guys that fit the style, and there’s small guys that fit the style. If I find the guy that does both, usually he’s a professional player, which makes things really tough to identify him, get him here and be a part of our program. Usually, what we do is identify the right guy and implement. Throughout the years, we’ve been able to see the success we’ve had doing it. When you bring in new players that have seen the past success that our guys have had, then they buy into it a lot quicker. 

TLR: What expectations do you have for the upcoming season? 

M.R.: We’ve got big expectations. Each year, they get bigger and greater, and obviously with the success, you enjoy it. Nobody’s truly satisfied except for one team in the country, and that’s the winner of the national championship. I think we’ve gotten more talent this year than we did last year. We can find the right leadership. We can get into this regional and win one of these things. Hopefully, we break in Omaha. Sam Houston State did a great job last year. We want to be the first club in the Southland to reach Omaha.

TLR: What were the most important lessons that you learned from your coaches at Tulane University and Pearl River Community College? 

M.R.: There’s a lot more to life besides baseball. You’re consumed with it from such a young age, from three to four years old and it becomes life with the fall ball, summer baseball to the spring, and you put so much time and effort into it, that you think it’s the only thing to do in life is play baseball. Play in the major leagues, retire when you’re 40 years old and you’ve got so much money that it’s OK to retire then. The good thing about my coaches and my mentors is that they’ve all had the same message: that the wins and losses is not what defines you as a coach or a player. Those lifelong relationships that you’re building, those lifelong impacts that you’re making on the next generation younger than you, those are the important parts of what you are doing for this sport. Don’t ever let this get too big or too nonchalant. It’s not do or die or life or death when you miss those plays. If you make the big pitch, life continues on after. If you get the hit or you don’t get the hit, those special relationships that you build with everyone around you is what lasts. 

TLR: What are you most proud of?

M.R.: Probably watching these guys go on and do exactly what we talked about. The advice that I got from my mentors was to go on and have success in life. I got to go to a former player’s wedding this summer. I got to fly to Colorado and see him meet his better half. To see these guys turn into not only fathers but husbands as well. We’ve got players who are having kids now. Just to see the impact that they’re making and having all of the success in their real world life, they’re using all of the skill sets that we’ve taught them here to get through stuff on the baseball field. They’re using that same mindset to have success in life. That is no doubt, 100 percent the most reassuring and refreshing part of what we do. There is no greater accomplishment than that.

Matt Riser


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